LONDON — "A spiritual candy store," that's what Jimi Hendrix once called it. His manager, Mike Jeffrey, director Chuck Wein and Warner Brothers thought it was a swell enough idea to sink $700,000 into a film about it.
The result, Rainbow Bridge, has enough going on: a Hendrix concert on the side of a volcano, Yoga, surfing, acid, clairvoyance, ecology (even), encounter groups, meditation, Zen, Tai Chi, flying saucers and Maui nookie. "I think the film says more than Easy Rider, really," said Jeffrey. "It's honest."
The film traces, in as cinema verité a style as a full Hollywood union crew of 35mm cameras and grips and gaffers could, the arrival of New York model Pat Hartley to the Rainbow Bridge Occult Center in Maui. Roughly, it could be described as a search for God. After some stunning titles, three horsemen ride out of the color-bleached phosphorescence to a beach. Spotting a surfer coming in on a wave, one lifts a rifle and cracks off a shot. Freeze-frame surfer, and as a live Hendrix "E Z Rider" blares over the soundtrack, the surfer lifts his arms and rises like Christ into the sky.
Great Scot, you'd think. But Wein, a Warhol alumnus who once prepared a script for an Otto Preminger stillborn hippie-dope film, has other ideas for describing the Maui spiritual search. "I think kids out in Des Moines, Iowa, will be very interested," said Jeffrey, "to see how these kind of people talk . . . Some of the people in this film might be bullshit people, but they still exist. It is an honest film."
The music soundtrack mostly comes from the Hendrix volcano concert with the last half-hour being the concert itself. (See the inside of Cry of Love sleeve.) Musically, it captures very well both sides of the man, divided between a brash "Foxey Lady" and some mellow sway, ala the "Star Spangled Banner" coda.
Those who want a Hendrix vehicle, however, will be unpleasantly surprised since not much else in the two-hour film reflects him. In private, Jimi wheels a surreal style: "Life gets very strenuous sometimes . . . like when you use a metal mesh strainer to clean marijuana . . . oh, sin, sin, sin." Then winding into a fantasy ending on how he choked on Cleopatra's wine.
Word has it that Wein is taking the film, already edited down from 40 hours, back into the shed for further editing. For those who want just straight footage of Hendrix, Jeffrey is also pondering the release of Jimi at Berkeley, filmed during a 1970 Memorial Day concert. Apart from some de rigueur man-in-the-street interviews, it is an hour of excellent music, all recorded in eight-track by Eddie Kramer. During "Machine Gun," crosscuts are made to the People's Park riots, the music synchronized to the beatings.
Jeffrey does not want this released for a year or so, however. Not until he's recouped on Rainbow Bridge. What will be coming out, either way, is a soundtrack from Rainbow Bridge, followed by an album of varied concert recordings.
Which gives Jeffrey a problem. "In the Berkeley concert, Jimi does a version of 'Johnny B. Goode' that is really fine but for a small fuck-up and a wrong note. And for those few mistakes, Jimi would never have released it. But if I don't release it now, such as it is, some kid with a cassette recorder is going to tape it from the front row and make a bootleg out of it. What can I do?"
Hendrix in his time had been working on his own movie ideas. Nothing will ever be seen of it, except for a few 8mm home movies he shot and a phantasmagorical script he wrote, with himself as star. Jeffrey has that script and a book of poetry to release.
This story is from the August 5th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.